I Wish I Could Go Back for a While

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI haven’t had a grape soda in more than 40 years, but I’m sipping on one now.

And it is providing me a flood of glorious memories.

When I was a kid, we would visit my great aunt Dena every other Sunday afternoon.

Dena, or Pops as she was called, never married. She lived alone in a little frame house under huge shade trees on the banks of a creek in the tiny village of Bunker Hill, Tenn., which was 10 or so miles from my house.

Every time we pulled in the driveway, Pops would run out to meet us. She would smack a big kiss right on my ear which always hurt considerably.

Then with one ear ringing, I would make a beeline to her kitchen and open the refrigerator.

Inside, front and center, would always be a Grape Nehi.

Every time. Every single time for umpteen years.

By the time I found the bottle opener and opened it, the grownups would’ve had time to sit down. In the summer, they would sit on her little porch or under a shade tree in the yard. In the winter, of course, they would visit inside.

Pops had somewhat of a boyfriend. And it was a real treat when he happened to be visiting, because I would get to play in his cigarette smoke which would be illuminated by the light shining through the window. I would draw in it with my finger or maybe just fan it.

Times were different then. 

While I’m at it, I might as well mention that she heated her house with a coal-burning fireplace. And she had a 3-by-5-foot piece of asbestos attached to her mantle to make sure an ember didn’t float to the ceiling.

She would jokingly call it “besastos.”

No one ever got Mesothelioma.

Outside at Pops’ house was a wonderland. In the summer I would wade in the creek wearing last year’s tennis shoes with the toes cut out.

A cave behind her house provided the entire town with its water supply. Every house in the town had a pipe attached to a big metal trough inside the cave that overflowed with water. 

I spent hours inside that cave. It was only accessible by walking a foot log which spanned the creek. The floor was wet and slick. Water trickled down the walls. It was always cool regardless of the outside temperature.

Occasionally on Saturday nights I would stay with her while my parents went to a basketball game.

Pops would always make popcorn, and we would snuggle in her recliner. Her neighbor would sometimes drop by, and we all would watch the Red Skelton show on her snowy black and white TV.

If I spent the night, we would walk to church on Sunday morning.

I wish this story had a happy ending, but it really doesn’t.

Pops died when I was away at college during final exams, and I wasn’t able to make it to the funeral. Part of me still feels guilty because I am sure I could’ve gotten permission from my professors to make up the exams if I had pushed the issue.

But I didn’t, and I will always feel a little guilty for it.

The grape soda is helping a little, though.

About Barry Currin

Barry tries to be funny and poignant, and he's usually satisfied when he succeeds with one or the other. (Being both is awesome. And sometimes that happens.) Email him: currin01@gmail.com

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